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More scientists needed to crack dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK calls for a national dementia research strategy

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Alzheimer’s Research UK is urging the government to commit to a national dementia research strategy in order to retain and develop our leading scientists in the field.

The leading research charity fears that UK’s world-renowned dementia knowledge base could be lost unless better opportunities are made available for scientists in dementia – a field which has historically been underfunded and understaffed.

Dementia research is dwarfed by that into cancer and heart disease, both of which do not pose the same degree of challenge to society and the economy. For every dementia scientist, over six work in cancer. Numbers of people living with dementia are spiraling towards one million as the population ages, costing the economy over £23billion, and the limited treatments available only alleviate some symptoms.

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s report Defeating Dementia is launched today and gives 14 recommendations to the Government and research funders to help boost capacity and create a research environment better suited to the challenge posed by dementia.

The report calls for a national dementia research strategy which should encourage ring-fencing of funding for dementia research, greater flexibility and calculated risk taking to foster innovation, and  boost research to improve disease understanding and accelerate treatment development. The charity also wants to see the funding application process simplified and the removal of unnecessary bureaucracy which comes at the expense of productive research time.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “The only answer to dementia lies in research that will deliver new treatments and preventions.

“Government and other funders have taken some positive steps towards boosting research efforts in the UK, but we can’t rely on flash in the pan tactics. Through our recommendations, we are challenging all funders to take an essential long term view on dementia research. If we can’t boost the number of scientists working on dementia, then we will fail the 820,000 living with dementia today, and we will be powerless to avert the looming increases in prevalence.” 

Professor Julie Williams, chief scientific adviser to Alzheimer’s Research, said: “Investing in our high-achieving UK scientists is the only answer to dementia: our brains depend on theirs. It is clear from this report that we do not have enough scientists working in the dementia field to meet the colossal challenge it poses to society.

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